coffeecupI know it always feels like a fast start to the school year and I trust that everyone had a good long weekend and has gotten off to a good start of the week. Last week, the positive energy seemed so visible everywhere that I am sure it had to make you stop and smile at times. Things are never perfect and there are always bumps along the way, however, it was exciting to see faculty, staff, and students coming back together, excited about the start of a new school year. To make things even better, it turned out that our Parents Association welcome back coffees have been well attended, so I know that parents are also excited about the prospects for the new year and are willing to volunteer and become engaged themselves.

Through all this activity and newness of the school year, we can never lose sight of the fact that we are parents… first and foremost. Being a parent is one of the greatest responsibilities any of us will ever take on. It is one of those great tasks that no one ever fully prepared us to do. No one gave us a book to read, a complete set of rules or a list of do’s and don’ts for every age, or a simple tried and true structure that would work for everyone. Each child is different and each family is different. What worked with one child may not work with another one. They are constantly changing…and so are we. Each of us relies not only on how we were raised and experiences we had as children, books that we may have read along the way, or the advice that we have picked up along the way. We also follow our own instincts to make the right decision to support, guide, and help our children as they go on their journey through life. It is an enormous challenge at times and we can feel very much alone as we confront each stage of life with our great youngsters.

Flint Hill wants to be a true partner with you and to that end every year we host a series of coffees and programs to help you with school questions and with parenthood. Some of the coffees are hosted by the Division Directors and are directed to helping you and your children fully understand, appreciate, and value what is happening in those divisions. Some coffees have to do with specific aspects of our program, i.e. the Learning Center, college counseling, or schoolwide areas like the school budget each year. Guest speakers will conduct some of the programs and our own people will lead others. Every year, I host a Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Series. In the past these morning coffees had been organized by grade level and/or by age level. This year, I am organizing the series by division levels and with a new emphasis.

The series this year will be split in two. Early in the fall (September) and then in the winter (February), parents in each division are invited to come together to talk about various topics.  We realize that in many cases because of people’s jobs or current family needs, one may not be able to attend.  But if you can, your participation in the discussions is critically important. These are not meant to be lecture series, but meant for us to share and talk about various topics that allow us, hopefully, to be ahead of the game. Beginning next Wednesday, and for three consecutive Wednesdays, I will host these parent coffees. Please note that the Upper School coffee will be held in the West Campus cafeteria and the Middle and Lower School coffees will be held in the Middle School Library. Division directors and counselors may join me, but the most important person there will be you.

It is our hope that in the most non-judgmental, open, and honest way, we can share and talk about our role as parents. Each age level is very different and each has various touch points of great success and tremendous challenge. Sometimes, we as parents feel isolated, alone, and worried about what our children may think of us or what others think about us, therefore, it is imperative that we collectively get together and ask questions, prepare our responses to unique situations and share our own experiences with our own children. I have set up key topics that will be used as ground zero discussions to help guide us in this first fall series. We won’t walk through every particular point noted, but the outline will serve as a springboard for us to truly engage in our conversation.

To give you a quick snapshot, here are the topics planned:

  • Upper School (view handout)
    Wednesday, September 11.  From 8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
    West Campus cafeteria
    Human sexuality is a topic that often makes all of us very nervous, but this is a critical time to think about what we say, how we say it, when we say it, and how to help our kids be prepared to make good decisions. This is not one to be taken lightly.
  • Middle School (view handout)
    Wednesday, September 18.  From 8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
    Middle School library, East Campus
    Early adolescence. The Middle School years are filled with contradictions and the most rapid change in development since they literally were infants. We need to prepare them… and us, so that we all can appreciate and understand the changes they will experience in their body and thought processes.
  • Lower School (view handout)
    Wednesday, September 25.  From 8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
    Middle School library, East Campus
    The elementary years are ultimately the most critical time of learning ever. Lower School sets the foundation and the groundwork for all of the learning that will come later. A person’s initial sense of confidence and competence are established during these years.  How do we help our children maintain the innocence that should be such a part of childhood, while also getting them ready for learning at such a high level?

These sessions should be stimulating and active, thanks to your participation. There will be several handouts that will accompany each discussion and those will also be posted on our website in the event that you can’t attend. You can download the materials and get a sense of the topics discussed.

As we look ahead to the year, if there is a particular topic that you feel should be considered as possible discussion in the future, please do not hesitate to share them with me.  These sessions give me a chance to get to know you well and at the same time it gives you a chance to get to know me better. And the sessions allow you to get to know other parents! That is the hidden bonus in the entire series. Together, with the leadership of our great faculty and staff, outstanding students, and supportive parents, we are going to make 2013-2014 the best year ever.

I look forward to seeing you soon at the Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Series. And if you can’t make this series, I hope to see you in February.